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it was his wicked unconverted heart, which prevented his giving the gospel a serious attention and fair examination. He must have had many opportunities of being acquainted with its evidence, during his residence at Jerusalem; but he was not disposed to see the truth of a system which overthrew his proud principles; he therefore obstinately refused to admit the light which was offered. While truth can be attained, no man can be excused for continuing in error; and no matter how sincere he may be while he is in error, he will be condemned, because he would not come to the truth.-We shall see what Saul thought and said of himself when we come to notice some subsequent portions of his history.
First mention of Saul connected with persecution-His miraculous conversion-Baptism -Begins to preach the gospel-Observations on his conversion.
WE said something in the last chapter about the sincerity of Saul; we shall now see that, with all his sincerity, he had a most unsubdued and wicked spirit, showing that though he was very bigoted in his attachment to the Jewish church, he had no change of heart. The very first mention of the name of Saul is connected with the death of that good man St. Stephen. He, with a great multitude of Jews, heard this preacher deliver the sermon which is contained in the seventh chapter of the Acts; and they were so exceedingly mad with Stephen's faithfulness, in telling them that they were sinners, and in preaching the Lord Jesus Christ, that they interrupted him in his sermon, made a great noise, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear him. It would have been well had they ceased here;
but when their passions were excited they knew not where to end, and so they drove Stephen out of Jerusalem, and stoned him to death. Saul was probably the youngest of the party, and the others gave him their clothes to take care of while they were engaged in this cruel business. The sacred history tells us, that "Saul was consenting unto his death;" that is, he stood by and looked on and approved what was doing, and therefore was actually as bad as those who killed him. But Saul soon showed what evil was in his heart. He had enjoyed, as it were, a taste of blood in the death of Stephen; and he soon proceeded to great lengths. With a furious disposition, more like a beast of prey than a human creature, he sought out the disciples of Christ that he might destroy them. He went to great extremes indeed, before it pleased God to stop his mad career. In the third verse of the eighth chapter of Acts we are told, "as for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women, committed them to prison." In his speech to his own countrymen recorded in Acts, (twenty-second chapter,) he confesses that
he "imprisoned and beat in every syna. gogue them that believed;" and in his speech before Agrippa, Acts xxvi. he says, "and I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities." From his own confessions therefore, it is plain that he wanted to root out the Christians entirely. In order to do this he obtained authority from the high priest, and then went off to Damascus to do this wicked work. This shows his zeal to do evil towards the christians; for Damascus was a great way from Jerusalem, about one hundred and sixty miles north-east of that city. On this journey he was accompanied by others, who hated the religion of the Lord Jesus as much as he did.
After such an account as this, no one can doubt what was Saul's state of mind. was certainly "in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity." The principles by which he was actuated, and the conduct he pursued, were highly offensive to God, so that we cannot but consider him in that period of his life, as altogether hateful in the sight of
God. It is true that he was strict in his manners, that he was moral, and blameless before. men. He was constant and exact in all the forms of external devotion; and thus filled with pride and prejudice, he "went about to establish his own righteousness," and thought he was in a fair way of going to heaven. He did not understand the spirituality of God's law; he was unconverted; and if he had been cut off in his state of sin, he must have gone. to hell.
And now, my young reader, before I go further, let me say to you, that you, like Saul, may be conscious of your own rectitude, and yet be deceived. You may abstain from gross immoralities, and you may be very regular in your attention to your outward religious duties, and yet from the inward tempers and dispositions of your unconverted heart, you may be altogether hateful in the sight of God. Learn from the example which is before you, the necessity of a total change of heart. Such a change took place in Saul, when he was about twenty-four years of age, which was four years after the crucifixion of our Saviour. Saul had,
as you know, set off for Damascus; and when